'Hail Marys' aren't trivial
Sir - There is no doubt about the enormous demand among parents for non-religious school patronage.
The Department of Education's survey on school patronage in 2013 showed about one-quarter of parents would send their children to a non-religious school, with Educate Together being by far the preferred patron.
These figures suggest that 700 schools from the 2,800 schools currently under Catholic control could be filled by children whose parents want a non-religious education. Given these facts, people need to stop trivialising the demand for non-religious education
Sarah Carey (Sunday Independent, July 2) writes that removing the 'baptism barrier' will not add one additional school place. Of course not, that's not its purpose. If there are new school places needed because of rising populations, we should build them. But in building new schools we should recognise the huge under-supply of non-religious schools for parents who want these schools.
As for over-subscribed schools, there can be little doubt that in many cases the demand arises from parents resident outside the immediate vicinity of these schools, who are not prepared to accept places in Catholic schools in their own localities.
As a result, children in high-demand areas are deprived of places in their local, publicly funded schools - on the grounds of their religion. Hopefully, removing the 'baptism barrier' will end this.
She writes "what about those children who are of a different religion or none, and are involuntarily exposed to religious instruction and feel excluded? It's just wrong".
This is true. But she adds "we shouldn't worry too much about the minority in the [Catholic school] that aren't Catholics". How casually disrespectful is that?
She then adds fuel to the fire: "There are worse things in life than being subjected to a few Hail Marys."
To Catholics, the right to say "a few Hail Marys" is not a trivial matter. Is it necessary to remind anyone of the great admiration within the Catholic Church for those who suffered or died for the right to say "a few Hail Marys"?
It is precisely the same for those who are not Catholic. They have just as much a right not to be exposed to a "few Hail Marys" as Catholics have to say those prayers.
It is insulting and disrespectful to impose religious indoctrination - even indirectly - on those who do not want it, and doubly disrespectful to dismiss this exposure to religious indoctrination in a casual way.
Anthony O'Leary, Portmarnock,
God spoke and He/She said...
Sir - I had a dream last Sunday night in which God, in alternate male and female voices, sermonised on a letter published from one Conor Ward (Sunday Independent, July 2).
He/She wondered why anyone imagines God practises any single religion, let alone supports political ideals such as Irish republicanism? He/She said: "I give every human being free will, along with reasoning. I am not a magician somewhere in the ether dishing out revenge and reward. Humanity should be more than aware after millions of years, that each individual is judged on themselves alone, and how they used their talents for the greater good during their earthly sojourn."
I awoke laughing at God's parting words.
"As for republican credentials: I don't give a rat's rear end if anyone's grand-aunt founded a women's institute or their grand-uncle was a pall-bearer! These are merely ephemeral in the light of truth."
Surely letters are published on merit
Sir - I was totally amazed by laughter when I read 'Too many of your letters are by men' (Letters, Sunday Independent, July 2). Surely this is taking gender balance to a new level.
I presume letters are published on merit. The writer (in jest, I hope, or else the world is in trouble) suggests that in the obituaries men outdo the women. Well pardon my confusion but shouldn't she be jumping with joy?
A bigger problem than these letters
Sir - Bernadette Purcell was right to bemoan the lack of 'gender balance' in the Letters page (Sunday Independent, July 2). But the under-representation of women has a much deeper significance than the just the lack of gender balance in the letter pages of newspapers.
It is a fundamental issue in many representative democracies worldwide. It has received some attention in Ireland due to the minimum quota introduced in the last election, the fact that the losing candidate in the US election was a woman and what happened to women in the recent cabinet reshuffle.
The situation in this country is that 22pc of TDs, 21pc of ministers and 22pc of the main government party are women.
Women are a majority in the electorate. Despite that they have during all the years since independence comprised a much lower proportion of elected representatives than even the present 22pc.
Unless and until women use their majority to elect more women, they are going to continue to be under-represented.
The lack of gender balance in the letters to the paper will continue to reflect that fact.
Thanks, Eilis, for writing so very well
Sir - I believe I've just read the best piece of journalism that my 63-year-old brain can remember. Eilis O'Hanlon's back-page piece (Sunday Independent, July 2) on the Jobstown protesters saga is a masterpiece.
She nails it for me.
They are certainly not the Birmingham Six and that "jumped up smirking middle-class boy playing at being a Lenin wannabe" is no working-class hero to my way of thinking.
To subject two ladies to that ordeal and to discuss their possible fate with a bottle- throwing mob is an anathema and an abomination to all of us who have mothers, sisters, daughters, wives and other female relations and friends.
Fair play to you, Eilis, for this piece. The decent, fair-minded and respectful people of our fair country will find comfort and strength in your excellently put words. Decency and respect will survive.
Pat Burke Walsh,
No, this is just lazy journalism
Sir - The sole pleasure in reading the article written by Eilis O'Hanlon (Sunday Independent, July 2) is knowing that her obvious disdain for the administration of justice when it applies to people with working-class accents and to those representing working- class communities has led her to abandon normal journalistic principles of balance, objectivity and fairness.
Despite the blatant and utter bias of her article, knowing that O'Hanlon has been unable to keep her anger in check is somehow satisfying.
The mask slips, as they say.
The idiocy and stupidity of her comment "as the guards -constrained from drawing their batons and knocking on a few heads to protect the minister, as they might justifiably have done in the past..." beggars belief.
The implication in what she says - and O'Hanlon knows it - is that this is what the guards should have done on this occasion. Thankfully, gardai know more about crowd control than does O'Hanlon.
The schoolyard jib labelling Paul Murphy "some jumped up, smirking, middle-class boy playing at being a Lenin wannabe" is lazy journalism.
Clontarf, Dublin 3
Eilis considers reality of situation
Sir - The furore surrounding the "Jobstown Six victims" has pushed the real issue to the sidelines. A few journalists, for example Eilis O'Hanlon (Sunday Independent, July 2), have challenged the Irish public to look at the reality of the situation. Two women were confronted by an angry mob because of one woman's job and decisions made in that job. The older woman was subjected to the most foul and coarse language and assaulted with a water balloon. Gardai "asked" the rabble to stand back, afraid to use their batons.
Simple question to readers: If that was your mother, daughter, sister, wife, girlfriend, and you were in front of that car, in possession of a baton, what would you do?
I am a middle-class woman, in other words, from the group in society who cannot be seen to criticise the "working-class". I must not be seen as confrontational, should compromise and show empathy.
Well, unlike Paul Murphy, with his pseudo working-class principles, my father was working-class, as was his father. They had values and principles and while they railed against the injustice of taxes and annual budgets which gave them very little, it would be unthinkable that they would call any woman a c***, threaten or intimidate her, because they disagreed with her or her decisions. If they were in the presence of people who behaved as such, they would challenge them and defend the woman, as opposed to mealy-mouthed smirking and sneering.
It is an insult to associate working-class people with those at the Jobstown protest. Those present may hide behind such language as their "right to protest", but make no mistake; what we saw in Jobstown was a crowd of unprincipled thugs, influenced by cowardly louts with political power.
In plain terms, Irish people, both working and middle classes, are intimidated by political correctness, which is the modern equivalent of censorship. We need to "call a spade", open our eyes and speak up.
Thurles, Co Tipperary
Better coverage next time, please
Sir - I must express my disappointment at the fact that the pro-life rally in Dublin last Saturday with a crowd estimated at 80,000 did not receive front-page coverage, as happened with the gay parade march the previous week with a much smaller attendance.
Your report (Sunday Independent, July 2) did scant justice to the rally with its heading 'Both sides in abortion debate clash at city rally' and was also inaccurate in that there was no 'clash' involved. The small group of pro-choice attendees lined an area of O'Connell Street and shouted insulting slogans at us as we passed by.
Your report did not even mention Karen Gaffney - the inspirational speaker from America and the first Down Syndrome person to receive a doctorate - nor the electric address by Declan Ganley, and the many others who moved the crowd with their testimonies. Surely such a gathering deserved proper coverage, considering that many of your readers are pro-life and have no wish to see the protection for unborn babies removed from our Constitution.
It should be noted that our Taoiseach is elected to represent all the people and, also, that he is responsible for upholding our Constitution which presently includes the unborn. Surely this means that he has a duty to ensure that this protection is retained and doubly so, as he is a doctor trained to protect life, not destroy it. Hopefully, this was an aberration on your part, and we can look forward to a factual, fair and balanced reporting on this most important issue.
Ardeskin, Donegal Town
Proposed solution to Northern ping-pong
Sir - Much as I respect Eoghan Harris's consistent and brave drilling-down into Sinn Fein's posturing, his selective reactions to Northern ping-pong politics is wearing thin (Sunday Independent, July 2).
I'm 72 years of age - and my life and the lives of millions of others have been blighted by the feuding mindsets in Northern Ireland. Surely the time has come for Dublin and London to announce a futuristic approach to the seemingly intractable political mess that is Northern Ireland?
The current deal between the DUP and the Conservatives is both desperate and sordid. Desperate from a Tory perspective, sordid as far as the DUP is concerned.
Harris says Arlene Foster would be at home with country FF and FG deputies. She wouldn't. And that is the problem. Northern Protestants have been in Ireland for 400 years and have made little headway in becoming as Irish as the Irish themselves.
I believe the time has come for Dublin and London to declare that after a 50-year period, Ireland will be united. This would take us into the 2060s - ample time for all concerned to adjust. This policy would wrest the initiative away from Sinn Fein/IRA, who have a vested interest in destabilising Northern Ireland.
Setting the record straight over talks
Sir - It is important to keep the historical record straight, so that it is not misused in the political arguments of today.
Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, July 2) is correct in stating in reply to a reader's letter that the Good Friday Agreement (unlike, say, the 1921 Treaty) was never signed, but that a number of copies of the last text circulated were autographed by participants in the negotiations for souvenir purposes and further copied.
Harris is misinformed in identifying me as someone who told Bertie Ahern to stand firm when Ulster Unionists - predictably - rejected the over-lengthy menu of matters for North-South co-operation and for specific implementation bodies, in the draft text of the agreement tabled at the beginning of the final week of negotiations, the main impetus for which incidentally did not come from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
It got through on the basis that the SDLP wanted it and the usual argument used for ambitious negotiating positions that they contained some fat that could later be cut back on.
In the light of that second point, I am sceptical that anyone in the Irish Government delegation would have strongly urged maintenance of that maximalist position, at the price of an imminent breakdown of the talks, after it had been rejected out of hand by the Ulster Unionist Party.
At all events, I was not present at any such discussion with the then Taoiseach, and none such is recorded in his autobiography. I was glad that he moved swiftly, as was his wont, to a more realistic position after his return from his mother's funeral.
While primarily responsible for the political content of the constitutional accommodation, I had expressed the view at a meeting in late December 1997 at Dennis Rogan's house in Belfast, when senior Irish officials met privately with Ulster Unionist politicians, that the Irish Government would need a minimum of six North-South bodies, and this was the eventual outcome.
At this period, Eoghan Harris was one of David Trimble's backroom advisers (as is documented by him in Henry McDonald's book on Trimble). Even allowing for that, I am puzzled by his claim that Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney is "in the Peter Barry pan-nationalist mould".
Peter Barry, who was a widely respected Foreign Minister in the second FitzGerald administration from 1982 to 1987 and at the time of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 and its immediate aftermath, was dealing only with other constitutional nationalists in the SDLP north of the Border, and had no relationship with Sinn Fein, which was excluded from the political arena at the time by the ongoing IRA campaign.
Eoghan Harris writes: It would take an essay to deal fully with Martin Mansergh's letter.
Suffice to say, I accept his correction that he did not advise Bertie Ahern to "stand firm".
On the basis of George Mitchell's 'Making Peace', I reject his interpretation that DFA officials were not involved.
His point about Peter Barry makes no sense as you don't need to negotiate with Sinn Fein to be a pan-nationalist.